Tashkent Things To Do + City Guide
Tashkent is the largest and most populated city in all of Central Asia! In this post, you’ll learn about things to do in Tashkent and what you need to know before you visit. Soviets designed the modern incarnation of the capital and filled it with pleasant parks, tree-lined streets, large squares, and museums.
It now stands as the capital of an independent Uzbekistan, a modern city with a multi-ethnic population experiencing significant transformations heading into the future.
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Is Tashkent Worth Visiting?
Yes! Travelers often overlook it on trips to Uzbekistan in favor of the more famous stops along the Great Silk Road and while it may not be as atmospheric as the others, it’s a nice cosmopolitan city. There may not be much nightlife, but there’s enough to keep a curious traveler entertained for a day or two.
What is the History of Tashkent, Uzbekistan?
Tashkent is over 2,200 years old, although you’d hardly know it because it looks so polished and state-of-the-art. Looking back, Genghis Khan and the Mongols ransacked the place in the early 13th century and it was subsequently ruled by the Timurid Empire.
After being rebuilt it became an economic hub for caravans along the Silk Road up until 1865 when it fell to the Russian Empire.
In April of 1966, a 5.2 magnitude earthquake destroyed much of the old city, leaving up to 300,000 people homeless. It was rebuilt with help from the Soviets, although many of the ancient historical structures noting its location along the Silk Road collapsed and were lost forever.
How Long to Stay in Tashkent? 1-2 Days
One or two days should be enough. It’s not a city with tons of attractions, but I wouldn’t recommend skipping it altogether either. Depending on where you’re coming from, you might have some jet lag anyway, so in between getting some rest, you can explore a bit.
Things to Do in Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Buy Bread From Baby Carriages at Chigatay Bazaar
Stop by this market for some of the best bread you’ll eat in Uzbekistan. Local women sell the loaves from baby carriages. If that’s not the most adorable thing ever, what is? Stop by, they’ll be happy to see you!
Chigatay cemetery is across the street that you can walk through if you’re curious to see how Uzbeks remember their loved ones.
Roam Through the Backstreets of Old Tashkent
Stroll through the mahallas of Tashkent for a glimpse into what this city used to be like. Wandering around the neighborhoods of old Tashkent was one of the more interesting things we did in the capital.
Most of these mud and adobe homes have been replaced or were destroyed during the earthquake in 1966. However, there are small areas that still exist, so go explore them before they’re gone forever. One of the remaining areas is near the Chigatay Bazaar (see map).
See the World’s Oldest Quran at the Hazrati Imam Complex
Known locally as the Khast Imam this has been the spiritual center of Tashkent for hundreds of years. Distinguished by two minarets 50m (164 ft). The front of the complex contains the Hazrati Imam Mosque.
In back the beautiful Barak Khan Madrasa was originally built in the 16th century. No longer used for educational purposes, it’s now filled with souvenir shops that sell musical instruments, knick-knacks, and paintings.
The biggest draw for visiting this area aside from the architecture is going inside the small Muyi Mubarak library. Behind its doors lies the Samarkand Kufic Quran, which they claim to be the oldest remaining one in the world. It’s stained with the blood of the third Caliph Uthman who was murdered while reading it in 655 AD. No photography is allowed inside.
Sample Uzbek Treats at the Chorsu Bazaar
They say to get a real view into the life and culture of a place, you should swing by the local market. Well, this one is the biggest and oldest market in Central Asia. In use since the 9th century, this is the hub of activity in Tashkent.
You Might Also Like: Samarkand Crossroad of Cultures
Grab some snacks on the top floor, we bought apricots, nuts, raisins, and figs. Don’t miss the candy section outside either! It’s a great way to sample national sweets that you won’t find anywhere else.
Try the white halwa or sugar-coated peanuts! There is also a huge amount of fresh produce if you’re after something healthier. Combine a visit to this market with the Kukeldash Madrasah which is behind the complex.
Memorial to the Victims of Political Repression
This memorial celebrates the martyrs who fought to free Uzbekistan from Soviet rule. Unless you can read Russian we don’t recommend going inside the museum, but the grounds around it and the landscaping are beautiful (see map). You can also see views of the Chatkal Mountains in the distance.
Admire Modern Islamic Architecture at Minor Mosque
This stunning piece of Islamic architecture is constructed mostly of shimmering white marble. It stands in stark contrast to the other mosques you will see in Samarkand or Bukhara. It holds up to 2,400 people and is a nice place to see at prayer time in the evening. Unfortunately, women are not allowed inside the main hall.
Take a Quiet Stroll Along the Anhor Canal
Walking along the canals in Tashkent is a peaceful way to spend some time. All of the main canals of Tashkent are fed by water from the Chirchik River. You’ll see the Anhor Canal running through the central part of the city (see map).
The longest section starts near the Minor Mosque. It’s not easy to get lost, just follow the stream. If you ever find yourself here during the winter you might be lucky enough to spot a member of the “walrus club” a local band of swimmers who jumps in the freezing cold canals to toughen up!
Enjoy the Greenery at Amir Timur Square
Located near the Hotel Uzbekistan this square once contained statues of Lenin and Karl Marx. A new hero has replaced those now, Amir Timur. A 14th-century cattle thief turned conqueror and figurehead of the Timurid Empire, whose armies killed a fifth of the world’s population on a rampage across Central Asia and the Middle East.
It’s a nice place for a casual stroll and funny to watch tourists and locals alike posing for pictures with the statue. You can also enter the museum which contains relics from the Timurid Empire if you’re a history buff. The interior of the building is impressive.
See Soviet Brutalist Architecture at Hotel Uzbekistan
In Tashkent, there is a lot of old Soviet and Brutalist architecture. One of the most iconic examples of this is the Hotel Uzbekistan. Grab a beer on the top floor for fantastic views over the city and Amir Timur Square.
Marvel at the Metro Stations
It’s the oldest subway system in Central Asia and each station has a different theme. The metro opened officially in 1977, doubling as a nuclear fallout shelter. The rules in the country are changing rapidly and they now allow photos in the stations.
Have a look at these neat stops: Kosmonavtlar, a station famous for portraits of cosmonauts, the Alisher Navoi station (photo above) contains mosque-like architecture, Bodomzor, and Mustakillik Maydoni, which has giant chandeliers hanging from its ceiling.
Where to Eat in Tashkent
Central Asian Plov Centre – The Best Plov in Uzbekistan
Located next to the Tashkent TV tower, this place is an institution and has some of the best plov in Uzbekistan. One of the main attractions of the place is that there’s an outdoor kitchen and anyone can watch the chefs serve up the plov from giant cauldrons.
It all sells out later in the afternoon by 2pm so get there early. If you like lamb this is the place! Try the bread with the “sour milk” (yogurt) and the pickles, it’s a tasty combination. Wash it all down with hot lemon tea! Cash only.
“Tandoor” Milliy Taomlar
We went here on our first night in Tashkent and it did not disappoint. Try the dumplings or, if you’re a meat eater, they have tasty kebabs and shashlik, the biggest we saw in Uzbekistan. It’s reasonable for what you get and our waitress spoke English.
Stop by this beautiful restaurant set in a peaceful courtyard to give your taste buds a sample of the local cuisine. Vegetarians will be happy to know they have plenty of options for you. We really enjoyed the atmosphere, the food is decent, but not out of this world.
Foods to try are shivit oshi (dill noodles), samsas (filled pastry), or mushroom soup. They tend to have live national music at night. They also accept international credit cards!
Don’t Miss: Guide to Khiva the Crown Jewel of the Silk Road
Tashkent Tips + What to Know
Bring plenty of cash, preferably clean crisp $100 USD notes! You can exchange your money at exchange machines located around the city, as well as some banks and hotels. There is a white booth near baggage claim in the airport that offers a good exchange rate.
We were under the impression that ATMs were plentiful, but this wasn’t our experience. Most ATMs were either out of order or only took the card we didn’t have. The most reliable ATM we found was inside the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
You’ll take out cash in USD, and then there is a money exchange counter within the same customer service office that can exchange it for som. In restaurants, tipping isn’t customary.
Do People Speak English in Tashkent?
Generally not. Some people do in hotels and hostels, but it’s smart to practice a few Russian phrases.
Can You Drink Tap Water in Tashkent?
No, it’s not recommended. Use bottled water or boil your water at least.
Is Tashkent Safe?
Yes! Violent crime is very low in Tashkent and there hasn’t been a terrorist attack since 2004. Use common sense and you’ll be fine.
How to Get Around in Tashkent?
Tashkent is a bigger city, so while some sites might be walkable, you’ll probably want to take taxis, shared cars, or use the metro for longer distances.
Taxis and Shared Cars in Tashkent
There are both official taxis and shared cars. They are both easy to find and are very cheap. Most rides will be around 10-15k som. Taxis typically don’t use meters so agree to the price before you get in. In our experience, most drivers are honest and not trying to rip you off.
You can catch a private shared car anywhere in the city. If you wait on the side of the road for five minutes cars will stop and ask where you’re going. At first, this was a little awkward, but it’s completely normal here.
The maps.me app is really helpful in Tashkent and worth downloading before you arrive. Most drivers don’t speak English so it’s useful for navigating. It lists both the English and Russian names so you can look up where you’re going and show your taxi driver the name in Russian.
Tashkent’s subway system is the most inexpensive way to get around the city. The metro has three lines (green, blue, and red) and a ticket only costs 1400 som ($0.12)!
Getting In and Out of Tashkent
Aeroflot, Air Astana, Air Baltic, Asiana, Uzbekistan Airways, Korean Air, and Turkish Airlines all fly in and out of Islam Karimov Tashkent International Airport.
When flying out of Tashkent the domestic (Terminal 3) and international terminal (Terminal 2) are separated by a 10-minute taxi ride. Be sure to know which one you’re going to. If you find yourself at the wrong terminal the taxi ride over is cheap.
How Much is a Taxi from Tashkent Airport to the City Center?
Islam Karimov Tashkent International Airport is 12km/7.5 miles from the city center. It should only cost 20-30,000 som ($2-3) in a taxi.
Trains remain the most common way to travel in Uzbekistan. It’s convenient, more comfortable, and affordable. Tashkent has two train stations: North and South. The northern station is the main terminal for all services to or from Tashkent. Go by taxi or metro (Toshkent station on the blue line).
The train situation can be a bit confusing, but there are three primary options for train travel: the Afrosiyob bullet train (Samarkand, Bukhara, Tashkent), the slower Sharq train (connecting all major cities), and the slowest night train (Khiva).
Buying Tickets for Travel in Uzbekistan
You can book tickets online through the Uzbek Railways website.
Tickets for the fast train sell out early. Most importantly it’s smart to book a month in advance. If you’re taking the Sharq train or night train, tickets are easier to come by, but should still be booked in advance whether at the train station or online. Always bring ID.
Samarkand: The Afrosiyob fast train will get you to Samarkand in two hours. The slow train takes about four hours and will cost around 80,000 som ($8).
Bukhara: There are two daily Afrosiyob trains, one Sharq train, and one night train to Bukhara. The fast train takes around four hours and the Sharq train takes six hours.
Urgench/Khiva: Urgench, a 30-minute drive from Khiva, is only linked to Tashkent via the night train. There are four different options in price, comfort, and privacy. The SV/Lyux is a 2-berth wagon, kupe is a 4-berth wagon, platzkart is an open wagon (a fun way to interact with locals), and obshye is just a seat.
It’s a 14-hour journey and costs around 170,000 som ($17) depending on which class you choose. First class is recommended.
For more in-depth train info see this Advantour page.
Trains connect several international destinations to Tashkent. For more info see this post on Seat 61.
By Shared Taxi
Only recommend using a shared taxi to and from Samarkand if needed. It takes four hours and costs around 80,000 som ($8pp). The other distances are too far and cars can be full.
Top Rated Tours in Tashkent
If you’re in a hurry or want to avoid the hassle of doing everything these tours are highly recommended
- Private Half-Day City Tour
- Tashkent Day Tour
- Tashkent Mountain Tour
- Samarkand One-Day Tour from Tashkent
- Bukhara One-Day Tour from Tashkent
- Uzbekistan 6-Day Private Tour
Where to Stay in Tashkent
Don’t skip Tashkent! Spend a day or two wandering around town for a glimpse into modern Uzbekistan. We hope these travel tips and things to do help you make the most of your trip to this green capital city!
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